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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Varina-Enon Bridge
I-295 James River Crossing At Richmond
Richmond, Virginia

Varina-Enon Bridge

• Bridge: Varina-Enon Bridge
• Structure ID: NBI 000000000010007
• City: Richmond
• State: Virginia
• Country: USA
• Carries: I-295
• Crosses: James River
• Date Opened: July 18, 1990
• Total Length: 4,680 Feet
• Longest Span: 630 Feet
• Tower Height: 300 Feet
• Deck Width: 109 Feet
• Number Of Lanes: 6
• Number Of Spans: 1
• Height Above Water: 150 Feet
• Traffic Count: 38,977 (2002)
Bridge is named for the cities of Varina and Enon, the closest cities to each end of the bridge. Given that the James River is open to navigation, the first thought was to build a draw bridge. That was not a desired option, however, since another nearby drawbridge was hit by a ship in 1977 and put out of action for over a year. The new Sunshine Skyway bridge had just been finished in Tampa, so that design was picked for this bridge.

The Varina-Enon Bridge became the second major cable stayed bridge to be completed in the United States when it was opened in 1990. It features the first application of precast concrete delta frames of any bridge in the world. These delta frames are similar to concrete trusses. As new segments are added to the bridge deck, a delta frame is placed between segments at regular intervals. These delta frames contain the attachment point for the stay cables. The stay cable supports the delta frame, and the delta frame helps hold up the bridge deck.

This bridge has proven to be a bit difficult to photograph. There are no legal spots to stop on the highway leading to the bridge or on the bridge itself. There are no public roads leading to the south riverbank, and the roads leading to the north bank of the James River are posted for no trespassing. You can see the bridge through the trees from a housing subdivision located about a mile southwest of the river crossing. In addition, there is a good view of the main river spans and bridge towers from Henicus History Park located about 2/3 of a mile upstream. Both of these vantage points would work best on clear days in the afternoon.

The structure of the Varina-Enon Bridge was tested on the afternoon of August 6, 1993, as a tornado made a direct strike on the bridge. While considerable damage was done on the ground, and trucks were overturned on the bridge, the bridge itself was not damaged.

The Varina-Enon Bridge is home to several pairs of Peregrine falcons. The birds like the bridge since it gives them the felling of being up high on a cliff. The birds have thrived after being reintroduced to Virginia, with the success due partly to building nesting boxes on this and other large bridge structures.

The photo above is a view of the Varina-Enon Bridge looking to the northeast from a housing subdivision on the south side of the James River. This photo is looking into the morning sky on a relatively skunky morning. This would be a great vantage point on a clear afternoon with blue skies and the sun at our back.

The photo below is the first of a seven photo series showing a typical bridge crossing heading northbound on Interstate highway I-295. In this photo, we are approaching the grade leading to the south end of the bridge.

Varina-Enon Bridge
Varina-Enon Bridge
These two photos continue our northbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we have entered the bridge and are climbing the incline to reach the suspended spans. We have almost reached the south end of the suspended span in the photo below.

Varina-Enon Bridge
Varina-Enon Bridge
These two photos continue our northbound bridge crossing. In the photo above, we are passing the south bridge tower. We are approaching the north bridge tower in the photo below. The single plane of cabled stayed suspension cables support the traffic deck from the center of the structure between the two sets of traffic lanes.

Varina-Enon Bridge
Varina-Enon Bridge
These two photos are the final two in a seven photo series showing a typical bridge crossing headed northbound. In the photo above, we have just passed the north end of the suspended spans. We are approaching the north end of the bridge in the photo below.

Varina-Enon Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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